National Movement to Lower Flag of Racial Hatred, 150 Years Overdue
"The Confederate flag should come down because it is embarrassing to all Americans," writes columnist Ta-Nehisi Coates
One hundred and fifteen years after the end of the American Civil War and despite decades of calls for its retirement, the Confederate Flag—the emblem of the Old South and its racist legacy—may finally be coming down.
In the days following the horrific massacre of nine black people at a church bible study in Charleston, South Carolina, images were shared widely of the 21-year-old killer Dylann Roof posing with the flag.
The shock of the brutal and racially motivated killings coupled with a growing Civil Rights movement has seemingly catalyzed a wave of condemnation which has swept the U.S., with politicians and others—who for years have defended the flag as a symbol of Southern pride and heritage—all joining in the national call for a boycott.
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Also Tuesday, both Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia and Governor Pat McCrory of North Carolina announced they would no longer be issuing state license plates featuring the Confederate flag.
Retailers Walmart, Amazon, Sears and Ebay announced bans on the sale of Confederate flag merchandise. At the same time, Etsy, the online marketplace, has prohibited the sale of Confederate flag items.
One of the nation's largest flag manufacturers, Valley Forge Flag, on Tuesday also said they would no longer produce or sell Confederate flags.
In Mississippi, House leader Philip Gunn (R) called for the Confederate emblem to be removed from the state flag.
Others are simply burning the Confederate flag in a statement the Washington Post dubbed the "latest viral stunt."
Meanwhile, monuments honoring the Confederacy and Confederate soldiers have also come under fire.
Across the country, people have started "tagging," or spray-painting, Confederate memorials with words like "racist" or "Black Lives Matter."
Tennessee lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are calling for the removal of statue of Confederate general and Ku Klux Klan wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest from the statehouse.
And in Kentucky, the Republican nominee for governor, Matt Bevin, is urging the removal of a statue honoring Jefferson Davis from the Capitol.
Though many consider the flag boycott a victory, rights advocates caution that people should not be distracted or pacified in the fight for equality. Nor should they applaud those who, until the recent killings, supported the use of the Confederate flag.
"When that flag comes down, we as a society will have taken a significant step towards confronting our history, our past that never passed, and finding the courage to end the state and individual violence that flows from white supremacy," said Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. However, Warren notes that there are "no guarantees" that the boycott "will stop individuals from doing terrible things like this."
"In fact," he adds, "we will likely see greater resistance to this step from people who continue to benefit from the demonization and repression of Black and Brown communities. But we owe it to a new generation of Americans to be honest about where we came from, brave enough to go to the roots of the power structures that perpetuate violence and racism, and smart enough to be radically intentional about where we need to go if we are not to see acts like this as the essence of the America we know too well."
And author and Atlantic columnist Ta-Nehisi Coates wrote on Monday: "The Confederate flag should not come down because it is offensive to African Americans. The Confederate flag should come down because it is embarrassing to all Americans. The embarrassment is not limited to the flag, itself. The fact that it still flies, that one must debate its meaning in 2015, reflects an incredible ignorance."
Coates adds, "A century and a half after Lincoln was killed, after 750,000 of our ancestors died, Americans still aren’t quite sure why."